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The Study of
Larry Stern, Professor of Sociology
Collin County Community College
What is Prejudice?
The word prejudice is derived from the Latin noun praejudicium,
which means a precedent, a judgment based on previous decisions
and experiences.
It then acquired the meaning of a judgment formed before due
examination and consideration of the facts - a premature or
hasty judgment.
Finally, the term acquired an emotional component - the
favorableness or unfavorableness that accompanies the prior
and unsupported judgment.
Thinking ill of others without sufficient warrant.
What is Prejudice?
Thinking ill of others . . . .
An aversion or hostile attitude toward a person who belongs to a
group, simply because he belongs to that group, and is therefore
presumed to have the objectionable qualities ascribed to the group.
. . . without sufficient warrant - lacks basis in fact.
Few if any human judgments are based on absolute certainty.
The sufficient warranty of any judgment is always a matter of
Prejudices are often based on overcategorizations overblown generalizations.
What is Prejudice?
Not every overblown generalization is a prejudice. Some are
simply misconceptions.
Prejudgments become prejudices only if they are not reversible
when exposed to new knowledge.
If a person is capable of correcting his misconceptions and
erroneous judgments in the light of new evidence he is not
A prejudice, unlike a simple misconception, is actively resistant
to all evidence that would challenge it.
What is Prejudice?
Prejudice contains two essential ingredients:
1. there must be an attitude of favor or disfavor
2. it must be related to an overgeneralized - and
therefore erroneous - belief.
Although both attitudes and beliefs are intertwined, it is
necessary to recognize the distinction between the two.
Beliefs, to some extent, can be rationally attacked and altered;
Attitudes are ordinarily far more resilient and resistant to
Acting Out Prejudice
Antilocutions - ethnophaulisms - i.e., verbal slurs
Physical Attack
Extermination - lynchings, pogroms, massacres, genocide
The Separation of Attitudes from Behavior
The Unprejudiced
The Prejudiced
The Unprejudiced
The Prejudiced
Antipathy between the races had long been explained by pointing to
the natural differences between the races.
Whites would “naturally” dislike close contact with an inferior race.
Similarly, African-Americans would be uncomfortable with close contact
with whites – with whom they could not possibly compete.
Once scientists rejected the notion of essential racial differences, the
question immediately arose: If the races were not naturally different
and unequal, why were African Americans, Native Americans, Chinese
so despised in American society?
In the 1930s, a new explanation for racial antipathy emerged: what they
began calling “race prejudice.”
Prejudice & Race Relations
Thomas thought that prejudice was biological and
instinctual in origin. In his view, prejudice, antipathy,
and affection were found in groups which selectively
noticed and remembered the characteristics of people
close and familiar to them. Familiarity and similarity
became associated with positive affection while hostility,
antagonism, and dislike were connected to those who
were unfamiliar and dissimilar. These feelings, then,
became symbolically connected to physical appearance
and social habits.
W. I. Thomas
1863 - 1947
Nevertheless, Thomas argued that the prejudice process could be
eliminated through contact and association, increased communication,
similar systems of education, and equal access to opportunities.
Moreover, Thomas claimed that there were no basic differences in the
minds, intelligence, or capabilities of different “races” and that there
was more variety within races then between them.
is a
Rational Response
to a
Changing World
Prejudice & Race Relations
During the 1920s, the sociologist Robert Park developed a
race-relations cycle to explain the dynamics of racial
change. Race prejudice was seen as one part of this larger
cycle of competition, conflict, accommodation, and
The cycle followed a natural progression and was immune
to any attempts to modify it. As minority groups strove to
increase their status within society, the majority group
reacted against what they perceived as a threat to their higher
status. One aspect of this reaction was race prejudice, which
Park viewed as a relatively benign method to maintain the
“social distance” between different groups in society.
Robert Park
1864 - 1944
Prejudice & Race Relations
According to Park, race prejudice was a rational response
to the social mobility of minority groups. It was a relatively
benign way to keep the social distance between different
groups in society.
“Prejudice is on the whole not an aggressive but a conservative
force; a sort of spontaneous conservation which tends to preserve
the social order and the social distances upon which that order
(“The Concept of Social Distance,” 1924)
The “Social Distance” Scale
Emory Bogardus, like Park, saw race prejudice as a benign
force that served to preserve the present social order. His
interest was in measuring and quantifying racial antipathy
and created a “social distance” scale. Respondents are
asked how willing they would be to interact with various
racial and ethnic groups in specified social situations with
different degrees of social contact.
People were asked whether they would be willing to admit
members of other groups:
To close kinship by marriage
To my club as personal friends
To my street as neighbors
To employment in my occupation
To citizenship in my country
As only visitors to my country
Or would exclude from my country
Emory Bogardus
Prejudice is Acquired
Goodwin Watson
Goodwin Watson was one of the first psychologists to attempt to measure
racial prejudice. He measured the extent to which respondents agreed
with various stereotypes – i.e., “all Jews would cheat,” “all Roman
Catholics are superstitious” – and how strongly they agreed with
statements such as “Colored people should go to schools, hotels,
theaters, etc., patronized exclusively by colored people, thus preventing
some inter-racial contact.”
Watson assumed that race prejudice arose out of some real-world
experience: specifically, from unfriendly encounters with members
of the race in question. He argued,
“It has been rather clearly demonstrated by the testimony of a
number of individuals that they acquired some of the race-prejudice
in a single instance, or two, and afterwards reacted to all members
of the race in terms of the [nb] conditioning of the single experience.”
(The Measurement of Fair-Mindedness, NY: Columbia University, 1925, p.23)
Prejudice is
Inherently Irrational
Daniel Katz
Race prejudice as a fundamentally irrational attitude
In 1933 Daniel Katz, based at Princeton University, had subjects match
a list of adjectives to a list of ethnic minorities. After analyzing the
results, Katz argued that race prejudice was a matter of stereotypes
rather than a reasoned response to any real attribute shared by the
members of a group.
Prejudice was inherently irrational because no group’s members could
possibly share all traits. People were prejudiced toward an entire group
based merely on the cultural stereotypes of that group, rather than on
any experiences of the prejudiced individual.
Prejudice, according to this view, was, in essence, a psychological
phenomenon – basically, a problem with people’s internal mental
Frustration-aggression hypothesis
Scapegoat Theory
1. Frustration generates aggression
2. Aggression becomes displaced upon
relatively defenseless ‘goats”
3. This displaced hostility is rationalized
and justified by blaming, projecting,
and stereotyping the “others.”
John Dollard
1900 - 1980
Prejudiced individuals believe that they are the victims.
Rather than accepting guilt for some failure, responsibility
is transferred to some vulnerable group.
Prejudical Individuals
Are Aberrant
Personality Types
American Jewish Committee
Department of Scientific Research, 1945
Sponsored the five-volume Studies in Prejudice Series
Two of the volumes were “social studies”:
Paul Massing, Rehearsal for Destruction: A Study of Political
Anti-Semitism in Imperial Germany and
Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Gutterman, Prophets of Deceit:
A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator (employing the
method of content analysis to explain the success of demagogues
such as Gerald L.K. Smith and Father Coughlin).
Three were “psychological”:
Theodore W. Adorno et al., The Authoritarian Personality,
Brunno Bettelheim and Morris Janowitz, Dynamics of Prejudice and
Nathan Ackerman and Marie Jahoda, Anti-Semitism and
Emotional Disorder: A Psychoanalytical Interpretation.
The Authoritarian Personality, 1950
Theodore Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson, & R. Nevitt Sanford
Individuals with high levels of prejudice possessed a
distinctive cluster of personality traits. They were found
to be
rigidly conventional,
uncritical of and deferential toward authority,
preoccupied with power and toughness,
sexually inhibited,
intolerant of ambiguity and
intolerant of people who are members of out groups.
Rational arguments cannot be expected to have deep or
long-lasting effects because prejudice is essentially
irrational and rigid.
Theodore Adorno
Else Frenkel-Brunswik
While it focused on anti-Semitism, the research indicated that people who
were prejudiced against one ethnic, racial, or religious group tended to be
prejudiced against others.
Prejudice is Learned
and is
Psychologically Damaging
Psychological Harm
The Doll Tests
Kenneth Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark
The Doll Tests
Overall, 253 African American children 134 in segregated southern schools and
119 in integrated northern schools - were
presented with two black dolls and two white
dolls that were otherwise identical.
Using a “projective” test, the Clarks asked the
children a series of eight questions concerning
the dolls.
The first four questions were designed to reveal racial preferences “Give me the doll that you like best” of “Give me the nice doll.”
The next three were designed to discover racial identification “Give Me the doll that looks like a [white, colored, Negro] child”
The final question revealed self-identification - “Give me the doll that
looks like you”
Psychological Harm
The Doll Tests
The majority of these Negro children prefer the white doll
and reject the colored doll.
Two-thirds of the children consistently wanted to play with
the white doll and claimed that it was the “nice” doll.
Three-quarters of the children who identified a doll that
would “act bad” chose the brown doll.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC)
The Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith (ADL)
American Jewish Congress (AJCongress)
During and after World war II Jewish agencies
founded in-house research departments, formed
partnerships with social scientists in universities,
and commissioned major studies.
These agencies collaborated closely with the
NAACP, ACLU, National Council of Churches,
National Catholic Welfare Conference, Catholic
Interracial Councils, National Conference of
Christians and Jews, the anti-communist unions
of the Congress of Industrial organizations (CIO),
and a host of other civic, professional, and
educational groups.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC)
The Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith (ADL)
American Jewish Congress (AJCongress)
Beginning in the late 1930s all three built a
professional staff trained in fields such as social
work, social science, journalism, advertising, public
relations, and the law.
All three adopted the theory of the “unitary character
of prejudice;” all forms of bigotry are inseparable
parts of the same phenomenon. The fortunes of all
American minority groups were interrelated.
Strategies tended to fall into one of two general
categories: (1) those aimed at modifying prejudiced
attitudes and (2) those designed to eliminate
discriminatory practices.
American Jewish Committee
Jacob H. Schiff
Mayer Sulzberger
Oscar S. Straus
Cyrus Adler
The American Jewish Committee, the oldest existing Jewish defense agency
in the U.S., was established in 1906 by a group of wealthy acculturated
members of the German Jewish elite.
Anti-Defamation League
In 1913 the B’nai B’rith founded its
Anti-Defamation League, which was
dedicated exclusively to the battle
against domestic anti-Semitism.
Under the leadership of Sigmund
Livingston, ADL members conceived
of anti-Semitism largely as a problem
of public relations.
Sigmund Livingston -ADL
In the same way that they had envisioned anti-Semitism as an
outgrowth of unfamiliarity with Jews and Judaism, leaders of
the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation
League initially understood prejudice as the product of
According to this view, prejudiced individuals accepted
derogatory stereotypes of Jews and other minorities because
they lacked reliable information about, or first-hand experience
with, members of those groups.
Thus, they concluded that they could help to eliminate prejudice
by teaching members of the “majority” about the various racial,
ethnic, and religious groups in the U.S.
They spread their anti-prejudice message through
comic books
print advertising
and other media of mass communication.
The main objectives of this propaganda crusade were to
combat negative stereotypes of minority groups, to
demonstrate the harmful consequences of prejudice, and
to emphasize the importance of intergroup harmony to the
advancement of American interests at home and abroad.
With the aid of the AJC and ADL the Bureau of Intercultural Education
worked with public school teachers to ensure that children were taught
to respect cultural differences.
Curricular materials, including teaching plans, were developed and
distributed. Summer workshops, seminars and institutes were sponsored.
Lest We Forget, comprised of fifteen-minute episodes celebrating the
contributions made by members of minority groups, aired on radio
stations. By 1950 it aired on approximately one thousand stations with
an audience in the tens of millions.
The AJC produced and provided cartoons free of charge to all television
stations in the U.S. for broadcast.
Snigglegrass, produced in cooperation with the Advertising Council
and shown on nearly every television station in the country during
1950, conveyed the message that America’s way of life is rooted in
the contributions of its immigrants.
Here’s Looking At You, which stressed the uniqueness of each human
being and the importance of respecting differences, was a collaborative
effort of the AJC and the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Baseball explained that “only when people of all races and religions
team up can the USA roll up a winning score.”
Sweet ‘n Sour compared positive intergroup relations to
harmonious music.
The Movie Industry
Shortly after World War II a number of
commercial motion pictures dealing with
prejudice appeared. The determination by
Hollywood filmmakers to address these
issues added fuel to the debate among Jewish
intergroup relations workers and their
advisors over the impact of the mass media
on prejudice.
In the Oscar winning film Gentleman’s Agreement
a reporter, played by Gregory Peck, pretends to
be Jewish in order to cover a story on antiSemitism, and personally discovers the true
depths of bigotry and hatred.
Crossfire, RKO Studios,1947
One of the first major Hollywood films to explore
the subject of American anti-Semitism. In the film
the Jewish victim is murdered by a demobilized
soldier whose only motive is his acute antiSemitism. This character was described as “the
kind of person who fell victim to the Hitlers in
the modern world and became an instrument in
bringing about the recent holocaust.
In the course of Investigating the murder the
police detective - played by Robert Young - gives
voice to the film’s anti-prejudice moral and
emphasizes the connection between anti-Semitism
and other forms of intolerance, including
anti-Catholicism and nativism.
Crossfire, RKO Studios,1947
One month before the film’s premiere a group of
nearly forty social scientists met for a preview and
critical discussion of the film
Most expressed serious doubts as to whether the
film could actually diminish anti-Semitism; a
single-shot could not be reasonably assumed to
change such deeply seated attitudes.
Some were concerned that the film might have
unintended negative effects - that it would “boomerang.”
The anti-Semitic character might be seen by some as
a “hero-victim,” while the Jewish murder victim, who
appeared as a civilian and a “wise guy” with an “obviously
Gentile” girlfriend, might be found objectionable.
Crossfire, RKO Studios,1947
The chief concern was that well-intentioned films,
thrown hastily together by Hollywood filmmakers
without the benefit of scientific research, could easily
catalyze the powerful anti-Semitism that was latent
everywhere in the country.
Supporting these criticisms was new research that
questioned the effectiveness of mass mediated
programs aimed at changing attitudes.
American Jewish Committee
Department of Scientific Research, 1945
By the late 1940s researchers began to seriously question the effectiveness
of anti-prejudice messages to change people’s attitudes.
According to a number of studies conducted in collaboration
with Columbia University’s Bureau of Applied Social
Anti-prejudice messages reached a self-selected
audience that tended to be more educated and
tolerant than average (“preaching to the choir”)
Marie Jahoda
2. Bigots, if exposed to the messages, generally evaded
them through the process of selective perception
or simply misconstrued the point of the message.
Anti-prejudice messages often have a “boomerang”
effect on intolerant individuals.
Paul Lazarsfeld
The Effects of
The Communication Process
WHO says
Attributes of the “source,” ie. credibility
The content of the message: levels of meaning;
Differential & selective perception
The target audience
through which CHANNEL
in what WAY
Formal; mass media
Informal; interpersonal
Rhetorical Strategy: Logic, Emotion
with what EFFECT?
Reinforcement; Conversion
“The Popeye Effect”
The “Popeye Effect”
Messages “sent” are not necessarily the same as
messages “received.”
Messages are often misperceived or have a “boomerang effect”
because the source of the information is not believed to be credible.
Messages often contain multiple levels of information and meaning.
Through the operation of “selective perception,” the particular
aspect of the message one “plugs into” or is most attentive to and the interpretation one gives to a message, often depends
upon the social background - the social status - of the receiver.
Prejudice and
Discrimination are
Situational and
Dependent on Groups
The American Jewish Congress
The American Jewish Congress was initially convened at
the end of 1918. Whereas the AJC was conservative and
elitist, AJCongress advocates – spearheaded by Rabbi
Stephen S. Wise and Zionist leader Louis D. Brandeis –
called for an inclusive, democratically elected body to
represent all American Jewry.
The original Congress was dissolved in 1920, then reestablished under the leadership of Wise.
Unlike the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) who focused on attitude
change as the means to reduce prejudice and then
discrimination, the AJCongress believed that attacking
discrimination through legal means was the key to
reducing prejudice.
Rabbi Stephen S. Wise
Louis Brandeis
American Jewish Congress
Commission on Community Interrelations
The AJCongress had earmarked $1 million for the
creation of a research center for the study of intergroup
relations. In 1945 AJCongress president Rabbi Stephen
Wise announced that the AJCongress would fund the CCI
under the direction of Kurt Lewin for five years and that
its purpose was to investigate scientifically the causes and
cures of anti-Semitism and race prejudice.
Lewin and his staff of social scientists devised two lines of
research to investigate prejudice and discrimination:
research conducted on the separation of attitudes from
behavior and
2. research on the effects of interracial contact.
Kurt Lewin
The Separation of Attitudes from Behavior
CCI researchers built on the work of Richard T. Lapiere who, in the
1930s, traveled through the U.S. with a Chinese couple, staying in hotels
and eating in restaurants. Except in one hotel, they were served without
incident. Six months after returning, Lapiere sent a questionnaire to
these establishments asking if they served members of the Chinese race.
Over 90 percent of those responding indicated that they would not,
despite the fact that they had done so six months earlier.
Bernard Kutner successfully duplicated Lapiere’s research when he
sent two white women into New York restaurants. They were later
joined by an African American woman, who was seated without
incident. When Kutner inquired as to the policies of the restaurants
he was informed that they did not serve African Americans.
The Separation of Attitudes from Behavior
The Unprejudiced Non-Discriminator
The Prejudiced Non-Discriminator
The person of prejudice who does not
actively discriminate in practice due to
the fear of sanctions.
The most effective tactic is the institution
of legal controls administered with
The Unprejudiced Discriminator
Supports discriminatory practices when
it is the easier or more profitable course;
The liberal who hesitates to speak up
against discrimination for fear he might
lose esteem or be otherwise penalized
by his prejudiced associates and/or
The Prejudiced Discriminator
He is as much a conformist as is the
unprejudiced non-discriminator. He
is merely conforming to a different
cultural and institutional pattern that
is centered, not on the creed, but on a
doctrine of essential inequality of
status ascribed to those of diverse
ethnic and racial origins. The local
mores, the local institutions, and the
local power structure support his
private attitudes and practices.
Interracial Contact
CCI social scientists envisioned a vicious circle of discrimination and
prejudice: because discrimination seemed to teach people that minority
groups were inferior, it led to prejudicial attitudes; these attitudes, in turn,
led to the erection of more discriminatory barriers preventing minorities
from fully entering society. CCI saw interracial contact as the point at
which the cycle could be broken.
What CCI and other researchers on interracial contact attempted to
discover were the specific conditions under which interracial contact
would decrease prejudice.
The abolition of segregation was a necessary rather than a sufficient step
toward bettering race relations.
Social scientists were arguing NOT that all that was required to reduce
prejudice was to eliminate legal segregation but, rather, that nothing
could be done to reduce prejudice until legal segregation was eliminated.
Interracial Contact
the “contact hypothesis”
CCI researchers concentrated on interracial public housing and
employment. In one of the first studies of interracial housing two
CCI staffers – Morton Deutsch and Mary Evans Collins – conducted
interviews with families living in two desegregated and two segregated
housing projects. The researchers found that white prejudice was much
higher in the segregated projects. They posited that the contact possible
in integrated neighborhoods gave individuals the opportunity to realize
that their prejudices had no basis in reality.
A parallel set of studies explored the effects of interracial workplaces.
John Harding and Russell Hogrefe polled the white workers on a newly
integrated sales floor and found that while basic attitudes of whites
toward their black co-workers may not have changed significantly, they
could nonetheless work peacefully side by side.
The Nature of Prejudice
The Contact Hypothesis
“Prejudice (unless deeply rooted in the character of the
individual) may be reduced by equal status contact
between majority and minority groups in the pursuit of
common goals. The effect is greatly enhanced if this
contact is sanctioned by institutional supports (i.e., by
law, custom or local atmosphere), and provided it is
of a sort that leads to the perception of common
interests and common humanity between members of
the two groups.”
Equal-status in the situation
Common goals
Gordan Allport
Supported by local authority and milieu
Common interests - no inter-group competition
The Self-fulfilling Prophecy
“In the beginning, a false definition of a
situation that is socially shared and leads
to new behavior that makes the initially
false definition come true.”
Robert K. Merton
1910 - 2003
Socially shared false definition of the situation [Subjective]
Socially Patterned Behaviors
The Self-fulfilling Prophecy
“As a result of their failure to comprehend the
operation of the self-fulfilling prophecy, many
Americans of good will retain enduring ethnic
and racial prejudices.”
False definition: “Negroes” are strikebreakers
and no friend of unionists.
Robert K. Merton
1910 - 2003
Behavior: As “traitors” to the working-class they are
excluded from unions.
Consequence: Out of work after World War I and kept out
of unions, Negroes accept jobs as “scabs.”
The Self-fulfilling Prophecy
“In the beginning, a false definition of a
situation that is socially shared and leads
to new behavior that makes the initially
false definition come true.”
False definition: People of African-American
descent are intellectually inferior.
Robert K. Merton
1910 - 2003
Behavior: withhold/reduce funding for inner-city schools
and compensatory education programs.
Consequence: Test scores of African-American students
are lower.
Pluralistic Ignorance
Pluralistic ignorance, a concept first coined
by Floyd Allport (1924, 1933), refers to the
pattern in which individual members of a
group assume that they are virtually alone
in holding the social attitudes and expectations
they do, all unknowing that others privately
share them.
Floyd Allport
1890 - 1978